BENNINGTON -- The annual Mayfest established roots into the Bennington community in 1985, when the downtown businesses formed a merchant's group. That group formed into the National Main Street Program, and ultimately the Better Bennington Corporation, who threw the 29th annual Mayfest on Saturday.
Over the last three decades, the festival has grown in size and popularity, with over 12,000 people in attendance this year. Exactly 109 vendors, services and nonprofits from around New England, Pennsylvania and New York came to downtown Bennington on Saturday to sell goods, put on activities and entertainment.
Main street was blocked off from Putnam Square to Union Street. Parts of School Street, Silver Street and Valentine Street were also gated to make room for the festivities. "We are at our maximum size now, we couldn't possibly get any bigger," said BBC director John Shannahan. "We also have all of the restaurants and shops on Main Street, so it's a good size to get people going in and out of the businesses (that are here)."
Entertainment was provided by "Clothes to the Heart" Palm Frond Art, violinist Anna Butler, The Whirlygigs children's show, Barry Hyman, the Hill Hollow Band, the Black Mountain Symphony, the Wild Country Cloggers, Crossover Cloggers and Immune Friction.
Also, getting a spot in the festival comes with BBC's stipulation that a nonprofit or service must offer some kind of interactive activity such as facepainting or game. "We give a discounted rate to the not-for-profits, but they can't just have an informational expo they each must do an activity to add to the show," Shannahan said.
The BBC contracted garbage collection to Dollars for Scholars during the event to provide volunteer hours to students seeking scholarships. BBC also worked with Mount Anthony Union High School to bring in students from the Interact Club to work as hospitality volunteers. "We are going to fill in for people at their stands and watch their things for them. We will also collect people's garbage if they need it,"said MAU junior Bridget Evans.
The students wore bright red shirts and walked from stand to stand to relieve people for bathroom, coffee or lunch breaks. "I like helping out at community service events: It's just fun to be outside. I will help out with the pasta dinner, the car show, or do shopping for needy families around Christmas," said MAU freshman Jackson Thibodeau.
The BBC starts coordinated the following year's festival a week after the event. To learn how to contribute or to reserve a space in next year's Mayfest, or to learn about other BBC events, visit http://www.betterbennington.com/.
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